One of the most important initiatives at BronxWorks to ensure the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are practiced and actively promoted is the staff-led LGBTQ+ Committee. The Committee’s mission statement is: The BronxWorks LGBTQ+ Committee is a group of BronxWorks staff, made up of members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies. The Committee’s goal is to ensure BronxWorks is an open, welcoming, and affirming environment for LGBTQ+ service recipients, staff, and the community.
The Committee was started in 2019 and was immediately instrumental in bringing changes that affirm the diverse identities of our staff. One such change was helping the adoption of all-gender restroom signs wherever they are possible. Another was the addition of pronouns to staff email signatures. “Something that may seem as a tiny step as just adding one line to an email signature is actually a huge step in promoting inclusion,” says Aaron Cipollina, BronxWorks Digital and Content Manager and Co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Committee. Aaron, who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community explains why the addition is important. “Introducing ourselves with our pronouns lets any prospective employees or participants know that they are accepted as they are, no matter their gender identity.”
Members of the Committee come from programs and departments throughout BronxWorks and include staff who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and other staff who have joined to learn from and support their colleagues. “I don’t identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, but I feel that being a Co-Chair is really important to show others that we can hold spaces to talk about LGBTQ+ issues, to learn about them ourselves, to show our support whether we identify as part of the group or not,” says Jairy Padro, BronxWorks SNAP-Ed Nutrition Educator and Co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Committee.
The strength of the Committee lies in the resolution of its colleagues to support each other in challenging our society to recognize the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. It this goal by fostering conversations at Committee meetings, by creating a space for staff who identify as LGBTQ+ to have their voices, experiences, and aspirations heard, and by serving as a resource for co-workers and allies to learn from the experiences of their LGBTQ+ colleagues. “When I joined the LGBTQ+ Committee, I thought that this was something that is really necessary for staff because there is always more to learn. The conversations we have, it’s a piece of a bigger strategy that we all need to be a part of,” says Crisbelly Contreras, SNAP-Ed Nutrition Assistant and Co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Committee.
That bigger strategy is underway at BronxWorks within a comprehensive Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) initiative. “DEIB is important work, particularly as it pertains to human services. We need to encompass people from all walks of life, to open the table to our staff and people from the community so that all their voices and perspectives can be heard and contributed to the mission of BronxWorks,” says Felicia Rickett-Samuels, Vice President of Human Resources and DEIB Officer. The initiative will create affinity groups for staff throughout the organization to share experiences and to support one another. It will conduct assessments around language used throughout the organization, and will encourage and incorporate our incredibly diverse staff to help ensure that BronxWorks remains an open and equal workplace.
Within the DEIB initiative, the LGBTQ+ Committee is certain to play a pivotal role leading by example as an organic, entirely voluntary, staff-run group that will continue to promote bi-lateral discourse and mutual understanding for years to come.
If you have questions or wish to join the LGBTQ+ Committee, please email email@example.com.